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Under the Tuscan Sun (Italy)

Day 1 – USA…VENICE
Depart from the USA aboard a major European transatlantic carrier where you will have dinner, breakfast, and entertainment aloft.

Day 2 – VENICE…PADUA
Arrive in VENICE by mid-day and meet your Renaissance Group tour escort after clearing customs.  You will be escorted to your private motorcoach for the 40-minute drive to your hotel in PADUA.  After you have checked in and freshened up, your motorcoach will pick you up for an orientation tour of the city that, during the 13th and the 16th centuries, was recognized as a scientific, artistic, and cultural center.  Padua, known as the second biggest university city in all of Europe, claims the most complete and the best-preserved collection of Giotto’s works.  Also known as a pilgrimage city, millions continue to visit the Basilica di Sant’ Antonio where the body of the saint rests.  This basilica dates from 1232 and features a high altar surrounded by eight sculptures by Donatello.  Its eight domes are Byzantine and similar to the ones of San Marco’s Basilica in Venice.  The oldest works that can be found in the basilica are The Passion and The Life of Saint James (1372-1377), works of Altichiero and Avanzo.  Not far from the basilica is one of the most interesting botanical gardens in Europe since 1545, laden with exotic flowers and plants.  In the evening, everyone will enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant featuring the cuisine of the Veneto region.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 3 – PADUA…VENICE…PADUA
After breakfast in your hotel, you will leave for a full-day excursion of the city of VENICE.  The secret to seeing and discovering the real romance and beauty of Venice is to walk it.  The city is built on 117 small islands and has some 150 canals and 409 bridges.  Highlights of the tour will feature Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) which Napoleon thought of as the finest drawing room in Europe; St. Marco’s Basilica, which houses the body of the saint, embodying a magnificent blend of architectural and decorative styles; the Ca’d’Oro (Golden House), acclaimed as the most beautiful gothic building in Venice; the 16th century Ponte di Rialto; and the Doge’s Palace.  The city took its roots during the longobardo occupation in 639 AD when Bishop Mauro built the Cathedral of Torcello.  By 776 AD, the bishop moved his seat to the island of Olivolo beginning the concentration of the inhabitants toward the island of Rivoalto (Rialto).  In 814 AD, the territory was divided between the French and the Byzantines who remained in the lagoon, recognizing the authority of the Doges.  The year 814 should be recognized as the birth of the Venetian state, and among Venice’s most ancient monuments is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, founded in the 639 and modified between the 9th and 11th centuries.  It is Byzantine in design with a simple façade, and in its interior you can admire the beautiful capitelli.  Lunch will be served in a local restaurant.  Overnight in your hotel in PADUA.

Day 4 – PADUA…FLORENCE…THE VILLA (outside SIENA)
After breakfast, today there will be a full-day excursion to FLORENCE for a visit of the city which was the birthplace of the Renaissance.  The highlights will include the Duomo, the Baptistery with its golden doors by Ghiberti, Giotto’s Bell tower, the Academy of Fine Arts which houses the original statue of David by Michelangelo, and Piazza della Signoria (entrance fees to Accademia and the Church of Santa Croce are included).  You will have lunch together before leaving the city and, in late afternoon, have some free time to enjoy exploring more of its marvels on your own.  Dinner is also on your own.  Overnight in your villa in Siena’s countryside.

Day 5 – THE VILLA…SIENA…SAN GIMIGNANO…THE VILLA
After a buffet breakfast at your villa, you will leave for a full-day excursion to the cities of SIENA and SAN GIMIGNANO.  The visit to SIENA, through a local guide, includes entrance fees to the Duomo and the Baptistery.  This city has conserved its pure medieval character that prevailed during the 13th-14th centuries.  Walking down Siena’s narrow gothic alleys and streets, you will discover magnificent palaces, patrician mansions, stores, and boutiques.  The famous Piazza del Campo is where all roads converge and where the city competes in the yearly “Palio,” a highly-contested horserace.  There will be lunch and a wine tasting at a local farmhouse close to San Gimignano that will include a visit of its famous cellars.  In the afternoon with your tour escort, you will visit SAN GIMIGNANO, a city rich in history, art, and culture.  See its beautiful towers that date back to the 11th and 13th centuries.  Surrounded by the splendid Tuscan countryside, this city was once the seat of a small Etruscan village.   Dinner is on your own this evening, and you will overnight in your villa in the outskirts of SIENA.

Day 6 – THE VILLA...PIENZA…ASSISI...THE VILLA
After breakfast, there will be a full-day excursion of the countryside starting with a stop at the Papal Palace, Piccolomini, in PIENZA (entrance fee to palace included). You will continue for ASSISI, the birthplace of St. Francis to view the beloved saint’s famous basilica, a building nearly destroyed during the horrendous earthquake of 1997 when its roof collapsed.  You will be shown the magnificent frescos which have now been almost completely restored.  A private Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica.  Lunch will be served in a typical restaurant of Assisi.  In the late afternoon you will stop at a winery in Montepulciano chateau for a tasting.  Overnight in your villa.

Day 7 – THE VILLA …LUCCA…VIAREGGIO…THE VILLA
After breakfast, you will visit LUCCA, a charming Tuscan town enclosed by massive red brick walls where you will see and visit the Duomo of San Martino, Lucca’s finest Romanesque building whose impressive façade is a triumph of sculpture, carving, and inlay work, among other sites.   You will see the Torre Giungi, a 15th century, 130-foot high tower topped with a tree, and Palazzo Pfanner with its fine gardens, statues, loggia, and fountains.  Proceed to VIAREGGIO, a picturesque seaside resort of Tuscany.  Take a walk along the beach, and have a sampling of some homemade Italian ice cream before returning to your villa to overnight.

Day 8 – THE VILLA …ORVIETO…ROME
After breakfast in your hotel, you will depart for ROME, stopping first in ORVIETO, a city which was once one of the twelve great cities of the Etruscan Empire before becoming, later on during the Middle Ages, a stronghold of the Papal States.  You will visit its famous cathedral nicknamed “the Golden Lily of Cathedrals.”  You will be shown the most remarkable structure which is the Duomo, built in 1263.  The black-and-white marble banding the main body of the church overshadows the rich rainbow colors of the façade.  The Duomo is a visual feast of harmonious blend of mosaic and sculpture, plain stone and dazzling color.  Originally planned in the Romanesque style, Gothic features were incorporated as the architects changed during its construction; because after it took 30 years to plan it required 3 centuries to complete.  The Duomo was built to commemorate the “Miracle of Bolsena.”  A Bohemian priest passing through the town of Bolsena (near Orvieto) had his doubts about transubstantiation dispelled when blood began to drip from the Host onto the altar linen while he celebrated Mass.  The linen was presented to Pope Urban IV, visiting in Orvieto at the time, who declared the event a miracle, and set the wheels in motion for the construction of the Duomo.  It was Pope Urban who also later declared the new feast day of Corpus Domini.  Today, the Cappella del Corporale houses the blood-stained linen preserved in a silver reliquary and decorated by artists of the Sienese school.  After stopping for lunch, you will continue to ROME where dinner is on your own.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 9 – ROME
After breakfast in your hotel, you will be taken to visit St. Peter’s Basilica for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI followed by an afternoon sightseeing of Christian Rome.  Lunch on your own, but dinner will be at a typical Roman restaurant where you will experience the cuisine of central Italy.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 10 – ROME
After breakfast in your hotel, you will be taken in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Papal Blessing at the Angelus.  In the afternoon, you will visit Renaissance Rome.  Mass will follow the Farewell Dinner that will be offered to conclude the events of this trip.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 11 – ROME…USA
After breakfast you will check out and be transferred to the airport for your return flight home where you will arrive on the same day.


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Renaissance Group LLC
20897 Planetree Forest Ct. Potomac Falls, VA 20165  
tel. 703.430.0030    I    fax. 703.430.1440    I    toll free. 800.304.8259

info@rengp.com

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